The Role of Social Support in Students' Perceived Abilities and Attitudes Toward Math and Science

Rice, Lindsay; Barth, Joan; Guadagno, Rosanna; Smith, Gabrielle; McCallum, Debra
July 2013
Journal of Youth & Adolescence;Jul2013, Vol. 42 Issue 7, p1028
Academic Journal
Social cognitive models examining academic and career outcomes emphasize constructs such as attitude, interest, and self-efficacy as key factors affecting students' pursuit of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses and careers. The current research examines another under-researched component of social cognitive models: social support, and the relationship between this component and attitude and self-efficacy in math and science. A large cross-sectional design was used gathering data from 1,552 participants in four adolescent school settings from 5th grade to early college (41 % female, 80 % white). Students completed measures of perceived social support from parents, teachers and friends as well as their perceived ability and attitudes toward math and science. Fifth grade and college students reported higher levels of support from teachers and friends when compared to students at other grade levels. In addition, students who perceived greater social support for math and science from parents, teachers, and friends reported better attitudes and had higher perceptions of their abilities in math and science. Lastly, structural equation modeling revealed that social support had both a direct effect on math and science perceived abilities and an indirect effect mediated through math and science attitudes. Findings suggest that students who perceive greater social support for math and science from parents, teachers, and friends have more positive attitudes toward math and science and a higher sense of their own competence in these subjects.


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